Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who else should they be for?

In his column in the Independent today (offline), Chris Trotter argues that the Maori Party will not support Labour after the election. He begins with an analogy from C S Lewis' The Last Battle:

Nowhere is this universal treachery made more gut-wrenching than in the book's climactic scene, when, as the free beasts of Narnia prepare to make their final stand, the mighty talking horses break free from their captor's bonds and come thundering to the King's aid: "[T]he children opened their mouths to cheer but that cheer never came. Suddenly the air was full of the sound of twanging bow-strings and hissing arrows. It was the Dwarfs who were shooting and for a moment Jill could hardly believe her eyes - they were shooting the Horses. Dwarfs are deadly archers. Horse after horse rolled over. Not one of the noble Beasts ever reached the King. 'Little swine,' shrieked Eustace, dancing in his rage. 'Dirty, filthy, treacherous little brutes.'

". . . But the Dwarfs jeered back at Eustace. 'That was a surprise for you, little boy, eh? Thought we were on your side, did you? No fear. We don't want any Talking Horses. We don't want you to win any more than the other gang. You can't take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.' "

Trotter then argues that, thanks to the passage of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Maori Party will "be for Maori" and refuse to support either side in post-election negotiations. The implication is that this is somehow treacherous. But who else should they be for? To point out the obvious, the purpose of the Maori Party is not to keep Labour in power, but to represent its constituents, to stand up for the views of the people who actually bothered to vote for them. And if those constituents want their party to press a hard bargain, or cry "a plague on both your houses" and stand back and represent them from the crossbenches, that's their right, and there's nothing "treacherous" about it.

(The same applies to the Greens, or to any other party. They're there to represent their voters, no more, no less, and no-one other than those voters has any claim of loyalty on them at all).

I'm fairly sanguine about Labour's ability to do a deal with the Maori Party, but if they're genuinely worried about it, they have a simple path open to them: start preparing for policy concessions and backdowns. Otherwise, if they are unable to form a government because they cannot secure the support of the Maori Party, they will have no-one to blame but themselves.